Now that the tree is down, the ornaments are tucked safely away, and the holiday decorations are back in storage bins, your house may seem a bit blasé, empty, or uninteresting.
One way to spruce up your house and bring some life back is by adding some houseplants -- or repotting the ones you have if they've outgrown their cramped containers. If you've noticed, hardware stores, the big home improvement warehouses, and the big drug store chains pump up their houseplant volume just in time for the new year.
If you give your plants the light, water, humidity, fertilizer and good soil mix they need, they're bound to thrive. The first step is to learn how to take care of plants.
The National Gardening Association says most plants you'll find grown by commercial growers come with a tag full of handy information, telling you how much water the particular plant likes and how much light it needs.
Once you have some new plants, try placing them in various rooms. Give them a week or so and see how they do. If they don't seem happy, move them to a new spot. When a plant tag says "plenty of light," don't take it to mean direct sunlight in front of the harsh glare of a window. Instead, place them in front of sheer curtains, the HGA says.
When it comes to watering, each plant variety has its own thirst level. Whichever kind of plant you have, the NGA says water thoroughly until water drains out of the bottom of the pot. And before you water, make sure it needs it by pressing your finger into the soil about an inch or so. If the soil is damp, don't water. It's all right if the plant dries out between waterings, especially in the winter.
Plants also like humid conditions. To help your plants thrive in the normally drier indoor conditions, group plants together in a large planter and place moist sphagnum moss around them. The NGA says you can also spray them with tepid water or place them in kitchens or bathrooms, where the humidity levels are higher.
And don't forget the food. Houseplants need the fertilizer for their nutrients. But don't feed them during the fall and winter months when they're inactive.
The NGA says the 10 easiest houseplants to grow are:
- Chinese evergreen
- Cast iron plant
- Spider plant
- Grape ivy
- Umbrella tree
- Arrowhead plant
- Piggyback plant
Meanwhile, late winter and early spring are great times to repot plants if necessary. Noel Howard, an expert with Home Depot, says you should repot if roots wind around the inside of the pot or become rootbound, roots grow out of the drain holes, bottom leaves turn yellow and fall off, or the plant wilts between normal watering.
The Home Depot experts say you should replant in a container two to four inches wider than the original. When you take the plant out of the old pot, gently shake the soil from the roots. If roots are twisted, cut them in two or three places. Fill about a third of the new container with potting mix and slowly place the plant stem or root mass, then fill the container with potting soil and press lightly.
Water thoroughly to soak it and let it drain. Then put it in semi-light for a few days. You should also feed it immediately after you repot it.
"To maintain plants on a regular feeding schedule, a water-soluble plant food works well since it won't burn plants, mixes easily with water, is simple to use and works quickly," said Howard.
Howard said you should keep a close eye on the soil if you repot during the winter months.
"There are times when repotting won't rejuvenate a houseplant," said Howard. "If the plant is sick or looks unhealthy, it may be best not to repot it. If you do, it's very likely the plant will die."